Journalism is printing what others don’t want printed, any other thing is public relations.
As an influencer and content creator for Opera News Hub, I have always known that there would be a period when interests would clash. But for some of us, on issues of masses’ interests, our own personal survival takes second place.
I had written a story on mass retrenchment through calls and text messages in UBA earlier today that was placed live on the app and had gone viral already with a lot of reactions trailing it. I refreshed the app few hours ago only to find out that the story was rejected and labelled “fake news”. I surfed the Internet too and found the story written by other authors only on two websites. Other platforms that had it on had pulled it down already by this time. This came after a “juicy” press release the bank is promoting very well so as to optimise it on the Internet.
No sooner had I clicked the “share” button on the app than I got a text message from a prominent data/policy analyst in the country, who happens to be a consultant for most of these banks. His text: “Same at Sterling and others. Shame that the Nigerian worker is no longer protected from crass capitalism.” He added that his person in UBA called that they chucked out thousands of them.
Another banker who was retrenched too had this to say: “This case is serious. Nigeria labour is flawed on every side. My contract with the bank was supposed to be renewed in September but it wasn’t. We were thanked for our services and asked to prepare for a smooth transition. So, I got my share of the retrenchment in September before this grand one. Seven were retrenched from my branch alone.”
Immediately I saw the “damage control” story that started with a tweet from @UbaGroup, 10 hours after my story, on a Saturday (to show the urgency to save face), I reached out to my source again who confirmed that a meeting held with Tony Elumelu and he confirmed to them that there would be some “re-arrangement” and right sizing.
“He said they would be retrenching a lot of people. It is true that the promotion barriers have been taken care of, as promised. But it is sheer wickedness to keep mute over the mass retrenchment because of some sort of image laundering. What is saddest is the announcement to these persons not to resume on phone in a new year.”
In my opinion, the hurried press release by the bank isn’t representative of a financial institution. Phrases like “over 4000” and “over 5000” are not appropriate in a sector where figures are the instruments of work. They are quite ambiguous. No customer gets an account balance alert stating “over 20,000 Naira”. With the mixed reactions and confusion in the public, what would be ideal is for Nigerians to know the exact figure of those promoted, those recruited and most importantly, those retrenched. This is simple data.
No amount of public image protection would downplay the objective reality of suffering, even if all the media houses are bribed by the ruling elite, so as to prevent any national outcry that could emanate from being informed about this embarrassing tale of woe. As this is not peculiar to UBA, it is pure failure of a system that needs to be upturned. Let it be called what it is.
The United Bank for Africa today claims to be the highest employer of labour among Nigerian banks. Do not forget that it was the same way Nigeria was adjudged Africa’s largest economy just in 2015 under Jonathan and in less than 10 months slipped into recession in 2016 for the first time since 1987. We can not continue shielding our activities in secrecy and think we would progress.
Many Nigerians would continue speaking; pointing out the ills and contradictions in our political and economic space, hoping that one day, a new tribe of conscientious Nigerians would arise.